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PLC Commercial, a California-based developer, plans to move ahead with plans for MarqE, its first East Coast venture. A 17-screen Edwards cinema, touted as the project’s main draw, is scheduled to anchor the retail and dining complex, even though the Newport, CA-based Edwards just recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The bankruptcy agreement could allow Edwards Theaters to be released from its signed lease with PLC, industry sources say. Meanwhile, the developer is pursuing other theater chains in case Edwards does not come through.

The opening date for the project is nearly two years behind schedule. Thorny city regulations and unsigned leases caused the delay. But PLC Commercial plans to begin site preparation next month.

Edwards is not the only theater chain in crisis. The Edwards bankruptcy petition comes just two weeks after Carmike Cinemas filed under Chapter 11 and closed several screens in the Triangle.

In addition to closing the Tower Merchant 6 and Six Forks Station cinemas in North Raleigh, the chain has also closed a 25-year old theater in Hickory, NC, the third movie house it has shut down in the Charlotte area.

Company officials would not say if they plan to close any more of its theaters in the Carolinas. Carmike also runs theaters in Lincolnton, Statesville, Rock Hill and Hickory. Carmike is the nation’s third-largest theater exhibitor with 2,815 screens in 439 theaters, including about 70 theaters in the Carolinas.

Another major chain with theaters in the region, United Artists Theater Co., has also filed under Chapter 11, but does not expect the action to affect its Carolina theaters. The Englewood, CO company closed two Raleigh-area theaters this summer because they were not performing well.

The chain operates 15 theaters in the Carolinas, including sites in Concord, Albemarle and Hickory. United said the reorganization is intended to reduce debt from $720 million to about $260 million.

Regal Cinemas, Loews Cineplex and AMC Entertainment are other chains facing fiscal problems in a troubled industry. Analysts say too many new theaters have been built before closing enough of the old ones.

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